What Would You Like To Have More Time For?

… this question stands above a video on the website of the German Federal Ministry of Labor. Interviewed passers-by give answers. It’s about how they would like to—or even urgently need to shape their lives. The reason: The parliament has just passed the law on the so-called bridge part-time work.

By Jens Kügler

“Working time is life time. You can’t get it transferred to another account,” is the summary of an interviewed woman in the video above. The new regulation on bridge part-time work is obviously intended to give time that many people have lost so far. Lifetime.

Starting in 2019, employees in Germany will be able to temporarily reduce their working hours to part-time work on an individual basis—and then, after a period of up to five years, increase them back to full-time work. This is guaranteed by law. The law is primarily intended for mothers. They often reduce their working hours after birth and have until now ended up in the so-called “part-time trap”. This means that their employers did not offer them the opportunity to switch back to full-time work. Or, as the Minister of Labor himself put it, to adapt work to life again.

Almost 80 percent of all part-time jobs subject to social insurance contributions are performed by women, a large proportion by mothers. They thus reduce their pension entitlement and increase their “chance” of old-age poverty. A “good law”, then, if everything changes from now on.

But not everything changes—and not for everyone. There are restrictions. Firstly, only employees of companies with more than 45 people can take advantage of the bridge part-time work. Secondly, in companies with 46 to 200 employees, the employer only has to grant part-time bridge work to one in 15 employees. In addition, urgent operational reasons can prevent an increase to full-time work.

In other words, the legal entitlement does not apply to the majority of all employees. Some politicians therefore criticize the law as inadequate. And criticism comes from the employer federations, too. They fear that the law would create too much bureaucratic additional burdens. But don’t we always hear complaints like this from employers’ associations?

Almost to the day 100 years ago, in mid-November 1918, the so-called Stinnes Legien Agreement was signed. For the first time in German history, employers’ associations and trade unions had agreed on wage agreements and employee representatives. Why? Because revolution prevailed, power was held for a short time by workers’ councils, and large companies feared for their existence. Did the agreement harm the economy? Not really, on the contrary. Social security is an important locational advantage.

The new law will certainly not overburden the bureaucracy and seriously burden the economy. But at least some mothers will be able to avoid the part-time trap in the future. Good for each individual and their family.

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